Based on recent observations contemporary students appear to be more inadequately prepared for life outside the classroom than ever before. Having been enticed through the education system with a plethora of sweeteners incentivizing their participation in the learning experience there seems to be a lack of a full subscription to the ethics of hard work, conscience self-orientated study, considered critical evaluation and focussed, innate determined vision. Our children today are effectively bribed to respond in ways which pave pathways to a collective will and not thinking for themselves, working hard for their own ends and basically taking responsibility for their own pathways because that ultimately is the fulfilment that will remain past the last school bell.
With the target focussed system that teachers have to work under, students have more and more become pawns in an adult world of number crunching. Judged by results (statistical ones that is), schools today are churning out kids that know how to tick boxes but not necessarily have the toolkit to enable them to choose which box should go where. That is not to say the teaching isn’t excellent in many cases, but more so the raison d’etre behind the it imposed by bodies other than the teachers themselves.
In respect of post 16 educational provision, more and more, it appears that sixth forms are all about producing exam results rather than taking 16 year olds and encouraging them on career trajectories that are significantly based on autonomous, self-motivated focus. The emotional gap between pre-16 and post-16 education is almost indistinguishable with massive buy-in to reward systems akin to the younger years, threats, restrictive practice and discipline regimes that would be better suited to a menagerie. The disappearance of “free-time” in pressed work schedules removes the responsibility from the student to study on their own terms. A reduction in home study hours/restriction in these hours further impinges the students’ capacity to develop intrinsic motivation that is self-regulated. The fear of failure cripples the chance to learn from experience and the emphasis on achieving good exam results come at the expense of developing the holistic self. Stress, pressure and overwhelming burdens are the reality for the 16-18 year old students of today with little help in managing some of the basic strategies that furnish them for a life-time of health and happiness.
Students are therefore leaving sixth form ill prepared for their next step. They are pressurised by a system that focuses more on what they can say they (the school) have achieved than the person that is the student has gained in terms of development potential outside the academic remit. What is more, the “boundaries” put in place to secure these statistics, restrict children at a crucial stage of their development when they are forging their own identities, working out their own values and attempting to buy into standards which will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Some will say that the “system” scaffolds this development but equally it could be proposed that under too tight a control it stifles and simply replicates its own beliefs and standards on our young people leaving them at risk of going off the rails at a later stage when they eventually have to self-express. Often if this happens they have left home to go out to work or onto higher education experimenting in an unfamiliar environment with the potential to slip up away from the back-up of parental and school support. In the case of students at university, some drop out or fail their first year because they are not intrinsically equipped to handle the massive transition that they are faced with and are then left armed with a £9000 bill for fees on top of maintenance loans leaving young members of society saddled with debt and nothing to show for it.
What then has to be done to revert the tide that is overwhelming the next generation?
If our young people have any chance of success in this target orientated world, we need to take up the mantle to beat the system. School is, for the majority, a large part of their life but so too is home. Inputting balance at home is vital to help prepare kids for the future ahead of them. That is not to go against the vagaries of the educational system but home is also a centre where the constraints of the “system” are absent leaving an environment that can be created to produce and counteract the pressures of school to help prepare our young people for their futures.
Listening to what they have to say and discussing issues as they arise away from the culture of blame and shame is paramount to helping them forge their own identities. Working with them to achieve a focussed mind set that wants to achieve because of the internal rewards of success not because of some computer generated certificate. Spending time laughing and simply enjoying the learning process of life so that it is something they want to continue to embrace outside the school gates. Encouraging healthy and open minded debate where opinions are validated and perspective appreciated. Indeed validating the person they are; not what a government agency wants them to produce. Enabling self-expression and helping them build true self awareness so that they own and buy into their true all rounded potential.
These are the things we as parents can do at home. They don’t take time. They don’t take hard work. They just take an ethic of world centricity uplifting our children without material focus, to truly become who they can in their own right. There is no designer brand for this way of parenting but there is a realisation that parents are there first and foremost to help foster the best environment for a child. All it takes is the will to do it for there is no other individual on this planet that will care more for your child than you. That is the joy of parenting and that, to be honest, is the mantle of truth that of each one of us delivers when we become a parent.
Working together with our young people and helping them on healthy and happy pathways into adulthood is one of the most worthwhile things any parent can do. Critically working in partnership with the other agencies that have been chosen to support this journey, where openness exists to do so, with the young person as the central cog mastering their destiny has to be the way forward but most importantly valuing the place of home, friends and family in nurturing individually enabling environments can only do good.